Off Festival Katowice 2014: From English Shoegaze to African Funk
Slowdive, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou, John Wizards, and many, many more. Some of them you've been waiting to see, while others will come as a surprise. Today's additions include shoegaze, afrobeat, electronic experiments, psychedelic trips, funk, punk, rap, and more: here are the latest features of August's OFF Festival lineup!
Last year we had My Bloody Valentine, and now it's time for their outstanding competitors. Slowdive have started performing and touring again. Members of Sigur Rós, Mogwai, and M83 just might show up in the crowd at their concerts - after all, none of these acts would even exist if it weren't for this band from Reading. Radiohead and Low have also admitted to taking inspiration from Slowdive's harmonies, their melodic genius, and the depth of their sound. That's why Just for a Day and Souvlaki have practically become cult albums. It's not just because of their influence on modern-day alternative rock - the songs are just disarmingly beautiful. And that's just one face of Slowdive, who have never said no to experiments, like their collaboration with Brian Eno or their ventures into the world of ambient techno and country. We just can't wait to dive into their magical reverb and fly away (onto the "Souvlaki Space Station," for example).
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou
The story of this amazing band reaches so far back into history that its name even included a reference to the country Dahomey, which transformed into Benin in 1975. Led by guitarist Mélomé Clément, the group has been so hard at work that its members might just have missed that historic event. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo released over fifty albums in the first decade and a half of its existence. The group's music is a hypnotizing mixture of funk, Afrobeat, rumba, and even jazz. But in contrast to bands like Funkadelic, the orchestra turned to local voodoo traditions for their addictive rhythms. Now, after a 25-year hiatus, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo is back in glory, riding the wave of renewed interest in African music, sparked in part by projects such as Analog Africa and labels like Strut and Soundway. 2011 saw the release of the album Cotonou Club, which won rave reviews in the Western music press. "Thank you for talking to me Africa," sang Sly & Family Stone; we'd like to say thank you for all the dancing and singing that's sure to go down at this show.
A face with a bloody nose stares at you from the cover of this artist's debut record. It's Andrew W.K., and the image itself could just as well illustrate his tour of the UK, where enthusiastic audiences quite literally knocked him out. "Why the madness?" you might ask. Well, the long-haired American is more than just a well-rounded musician - he's also quite a celebrity. Part comedian, part performer, Andrew W.K. has received invitations from leading universities as well as MTV. In his music he combines poppy melodies and a heavy metal image, playing around with their common denominator: gaudiness. That's not to say that Andrew W.K. doesn't know how to be serious. In recent years he's performed with Current 93 and produced an album for Lee "Scratch" Perry. Yeah, he's kinda hard to follow.
Though this band was started by citizens of Rwanda and South Africa, its roots aren't unambiguously African. Instead of an Afrobeat-style drum section, you hear the sound of an MPC, and irregular keyboard splotches make a bigger appearance than funky guitars. John Wizards have drawn frequent comparisons to artists like the Range and Bibio, though there are also those who hear echoes of Hudson Mohawke and Clams Casino in John Withers' productions. Emmanuel Nzaramba's singing style seems a bit more traditions, which is why it's been autotuned on the catchy track "Lusaka By Night." It's no wonder the band's debut album was released by Planet Mu, a label that specializes in original electronic music. Luckily, this hasn't cast a cloudy shadow on John Wizards' sound, which remains just as sunny as ever.
Don't be confused by her "exotic" name or Puerto Rican roots: Rubinos has very little to do with Latino music. Which is surprising, if you consider how much the artist loves to combine different elements: English with Spanish, syncopated rhythms with beatboxing, and punk rock distortion with a general happy vibe. She's got a bit of St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs in her. If you can imagine a world where Juana Molina takes over for Tyondai Braxton in Battles, then you're not too far off the mark. But the best thing you can to is have a listen to her debut album Magic Trix, which left one Pitchfork reviewer in awe. Awe and bewilderment: that's just the kind of music Xenia Rubinos plays.
Hypnotizing and impenetrably dense psychedelic music came back with a bang about five ago. The trend saw its greatest resurgence in warm, sunny places likes California (Wooden Shjips), Texas (Sun Araw), and Australia (Tame Impala), but it also made its way into the UK. The legacy of early Pink Floyd, Spaceman 3, and Loop apparently hasn't disappeared completely, and the guys from Hookworms knew it when they went down the same path. The Leeds-based quintet's debut Pearl Mystic quickly won the favor of critics - with accolades that included Drowned in Sound's 2013 album of the year - as well as audiences. Among the latter are such fans as Bobby Gillespie and Julian Cope. Quite a start, you have to admit.
The Julie Ruin
It's simply not true that the history of punk rock was written by men. And if you don't believe that, just watch The Punk Singer, a documentary film dedicated to Kathleen Hanna, leader of the legendary band Bikini Kill. The singer currently leads the Julie Ruin, a band that released its debut LP last year on the famous US punk label Discord Records. Though Hanna's music isn't as raw and furious as it was in the 90s, Run Fast is still an excellent afterword to the Riot Grrrl scene and bands like Sleater-Kinney, Heavens to Betsy, and Bratmobile.
This long-haired songwriter has quite the reputation in folk circles. The list of guests on his second album includes David Crosby Graham Nash, and Wilco's Patrick Sansone. Not enough, you say? Well, then consider the fact that the lyrics to one of his songs were written by none other that Roy Harper. These accomplished musicians must have been charmed with Wilson's attempts to reanimate the somewhat forgotten Laurel Canyon scene, which in the sixties was home to Buffalo Springfield, Love, and Nash himself. And if you're looking for some more contemporary references: fans of John Grant and Father John Misty should feel right at home here. Bon Iver is a good match too (but only in his cabin days).
This young producer from Rhode Island has a keen eye for developments in the world of electronic music, but he's also sentimental about what happened with the genre in the mid-90s. His clever sample work echoes laid-back r'n'b. And while his productions might remind you of slower tracks by Aphex Twin or Lone, the Range knows how to pick up the pace and head off in the direction of jungle and footwork. James Hinton, as the man behind the stage name is know, is not just an artist with broad horizons, but one that can translate all those inspirations into a coherent musical language: a soothing, dreamy, blissful tongue.
Loose outfits and loose compositions: Bo Ningen could have moved to London, but their music retains that oriental madness that once took hold of Melt Banana, Acid Mothers Temple, and - a bit earlier - Flower Travellin' Band. The band's androgynous singer Taigen Kawabe thrashes about the stage while his voice swings from threatening growl to a high-pitched, somewhat squeaky wail. Bo Ningen's music also reveals the influence of New York punk rock in the vein of the Stooges, along with the formal openness of kraut-rock bands. The fact that the groups teamed up on an album with Damo Suzuki two years ago should come as no surprise. Expect the unexpected.
In the heavily masculine world of hip hop, women have always had it tough. Not so much gay men, who have been practically absent. At least officially. They made their first appearances on the scene with Zebra Katz, Mykki Blanco, and Le1f. The last of the three started out with Das Racist, with whom he worked on the groundbreaking mixtape Shut Up, Dude. He quickly moved on to a solo career, releasing tracks that often dealt explicitly with his sexuality. Le1f's production style gives his music a sound that can easily be compared to both Mykki Blanco and Azealia Banks. And just like them, Le1f appears to be quite an oddball. Who else could have produced "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell"?
Frankie Knuckles isn't with us anymore, but his spirit continues to haunt the Chicago music scene. That's definitely true of Svengalisghost, whose music delves into the rich traditions of house. But if his sets aren't completely devoted to a single genre, it's because he treats them like stories to tell (and he does sometimes grab the mike to tack a few words onto the racing beat). Some days it's techno, other days it's elektro, but the goal always remains the same: the search for the music of the future.
This mysterious producer from L.I.E.S. Records makes music that doesn't quite match the label's profile. Instead of energetic house packed with the latest stylistic gimmicks, Jahiliyya Fields serves up hefty portions of cosmic music. With the help of analog synthesizers, he creates sounds and spaces worthy of Prins Thomas, Etienne Jaumet, and even Manuel Göttsching.
DJ, producer, and above all else, the founder and brains behind L.I.E.S. Records, the label Resident Advisor described last year as the trendsetter in underground dance music. His own productions aren't always that focused on the dancefloor, as Morelli showed us this year with the release of his dark, experimental, and somewhat ambient-sounding Periscope Blues. But if we assume that he's coming to Katowice to showcase L.I.E.S. Records, it's probably a safe bet to wear your dancing shoes.